Consumers, it appears, are not getting sufficient support in helping them conduct mobile banking and payments.

A recent online survey of 1,527 mobile-banking users found a lack of technical support, tutorials and advice in the typical mobile-banking application.

Asked about the one improvement they would most like to see in their mobile-banking application, 60% of respondents cited links/contact information for technical support.

“This was a strong theme in the responses we got,” says Michael McEvoy, managing director at Power Consulting, the company that conducted the survey in the fourth quarter of 2011. “Users feel they’re not getting the kind of mobile-banking help and guidance that they’d like to have.”

Some respondents complained about difficulty navigating the app, and some felt there was a lack of support and guidance to help when unsure what to do next, McEvoy says. “That's where chat comes in,” he adds. “People would like some way of communicating with somebody, and the most obvious thing is to have some kind of chat interaction with the contact center while using mobile banking.”

Easier navigation and chat tools would help banks improve their overall mobile-banking adoption, McEvoy reasons.

Better education about mobile-banking services also would help. “We found that many people weren’t aware of some of the things that were possible. They didn't know, for instance, if their bank offers remote deposit capture,” McEvoy says.

In other findings, the report showed smartphone market-share data similar to Comscore’s, with 45% of consumers using Android devices, 37% using iPhones, 12% using BlackBerrys and 3% using Windows.

“Bank [chief information officers] have a dilemma–they’d like to support everything. At the same time, they have to pick and choose what they support,” McEvoy says. “There’s a trend now toward having individual apps to support individual platforms, such as the iPhone and Android. But banks are groaning at having to support all these different things.”

Even at the largest banks, mobile-banking adoption rates are only around 20%, so supporting a native app for a device that has only a small fraction of those users doesn’t make sense, McEvoy points out.

Mobile-banking users are heavy users of digital channels. Asked to identify their primary banking channel, 70% said online banking, 16% said mobile banking, 9% said a branch, 3% said their phone and 2% said an ATM.

“If they’re a mobile-banking customer, they use online and mobile for everything,” McEvoy says.

Although transactions are moving away from branches, McEvoy doesn’t see the branch going away.

Banks have a choice. They either can consolidate their branch networks or transform the branch into more of a sales organization, he believes.

“When you talk about run-of-the-mill branches, many customers are loss makers,” McEvoy says. “If you're not carrying balances on your card and racking up overdraft fees, the likelihood is you're a loss maker for the bank.”

Asked what new features they would like to use within mobile banking, consumers voted strongly in favor of rewards and coupons.

Sixty-two percent of respondents said they would like to store and maintain reward points in their mobile-banking app, and 61% said they would like to receive special offers, promotions and coupons. Just more than half said they would like to conduct debit transactions at a store or restaurant, 19% said they would like to invest money in stocks or bonds, 16% said they would like to apply for a loan, and 16% said they would like to purchase a CD.

“This is a lead-in to value-added things that are possible through mobile banking; there's no other channel that will do this for you,” McEvoy notes.

Such value-added services could enable banks to charge $2 to $5 per month for mobile banking with little or no resistance, McEvoy believes. “It can be an overall plus for the customer if they gain more through these rewards or coupons than they’re spending on the mobile fee,” he says.

The consumers surveyed generally showed a strong interest in mobile payments, as 34% said it would be highly desirable for them to pay through their mobile phone, and 28% said they have an “average” interest in P2P mobile payments.

“There's an obvious interest in being able to do P2P payments,” McEvoy says. “Somebody will fill that void, whether it’s PayPal or other nonbank competitors or banks. When people become familiar with this feature, they become more comfortable and willing to try it out, especially if their friends are using it.”

McEvoy believes banks don’t do a good job of making consumers feel comfortable that mobile and online channels are secure.

“Under Reg E, if something happens with your consumer account, you’re well protected financially,” he says. “People don’t know that.”

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